[Review] Bloodivores – episode 1

Bloodivores are vampires, which in this world came about because of pharmaceutical side effects. Some bloodivore kids who grew up at an orphanage together commit a bank robbery for some reason, and when it turns out 15 people were killed at the robbery they are arrested and tried for murder. One of the kids is half-human and known as the Child of Peace, and has a fractious relationship with his dad, who  heads up the bureau charged with dealing with bloodivore crimes.

That all said, you are very unlikely to care about any of these people by the end of the first episode because Bloodivores hasn’t got a clue how to tell a story.

After being spoiled by premieres that either intrigued me have done simple things well enough to be enjoyable, Bloodivores is the first show I actively disliked. I actually stopped watching halfway through for a break and had to convince myself to come back to it.

Even after persuading myself to watch to the end, the second half of the episode was no more engaging than the first half. It ended on a cliffhanger which should have made me keen to see more, but instead gave me the sense of closure you get from the end of a one-shot manga. The choice of starting point was terrible too, requiring them to jump around in time more than was necessary. I get the sense they should have started at a later point and communicated the bank robbery story through dialogue and flashback later on. But that would require an understanding of narrative that the team behind Bloodivores clearly lacks.

It’s not even like there are good characters in this mess of a story. A solid character needs three things: a personal goal, plausible motivation and the agency to accomplish it. In the first episode of Bloodivores we get almost no insight into what is driving these characters and why. What would drive four kids to rob a bank? Moreover, to rob a bank for a very specific amount of money and some documents? We have no idea, which means we have no reason to care.

The most engaging aspect is easily the worldbuilding. Vampires as an underclass who live in broad daylight under strong police scrutiny is an interesting prospect, and could have something to say about systemic discrimination in the real world. Unfortunately, I don’t trust the source material to do much with that, and evidence so far suggests that any attempt would be ham-fisted at best. Maybe these flaws exist in the source material (a web manhua) too, but a good adaptation should showcase the best parts of its source and refine, tweak or filter out the rest.

I could also see myself becoming invested in the relationship between main character Mi Liu, the so-called Child of Peace, and his father. The conflict between them is clear and understandable: Mi Liu is a bloodivore, his father’s job is to protect society from bloodivores. There are also hints at further conflict related to Mi Liu’s mother, presumably also a bloodivore, who seems to have disappeared. Finally, Mi Liu’s father physically controls his son with a glove that burns his flesh, which – along with the fact that Mi Liu was raised in an orphanage – raises a lot of questions about how they got here and what their path  to either reconciliation or total estrangement may be.

The idea that Mi Liu is half-human, half-bloodivore has potential, though the “Child of Peace” thing over-eggs it a bit – who calls him that? Why? Just because he’s half-human or because of some prophecy? A mixed race character who is treated differently to other bloodivores could have made for a good story about power and privilege, but this element is quickly glossed over.

From a feminist perspective, it’s just pretty uninspiring. There’s one female character, a gentle, self-sacrificing and maternal type so far. Like the other characters, she doesn’t seem to have a goal or motivation, and her agency seems to extend as far as following Mi Liu or not. She’s not sexualised by the camera or other characters in this episode, just has unusually large breasts and thinks a short skirt and thigh-high socks make a practical outfit for a heist.

There is an art to premiere episodes, starting to lay a solid foundation for story and character without giving too much away. Many miss the mark, but few miss the mark as badly as the Bloodivores team. It’s a shame, because the vampire discrimination idea is intriguing and the father-son conflict at least is solid, but this first episode earns no confidence that they will be able to bring out the potential of these concepts.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.

We cannot build up this site without you. If you believe in the work we are doing and can spare a dollar a month, please become a patron today!